Category Archives for Parenting

Now We Are 5

M2 came down the stairs this morning and declared: “Mom, you have to measure me to see if I’m really 5.”


Photo by Siobhan Hanna Photography / All rights reserved

Nearly-five has already been amazing us this fall with improved attitude and independence.

Still an avid drawer and artist with a significant attention span for those activities, her artwork is detailed and story-oriented. And, oh my goodness, board games. A couple of months ago, M2 developed an interest in and attention span for board games that can often outlast her parents.

Now in PreK (in a mixed-age Montessori classroom), M2 is desperate to learn to read. She recently discovered the graphic novel and has been rapidly consuming the DC Public Library supply of them (we have to be a bit careful, because 5 is not the target demographic for many of these).

This time last year, M2 wore her Cinderella dress so much that she wore the sparkly lace layer right off it. Now, princesses have taken a back seat to spies, superheroes, and other adventurers.

Now we are 5

Surprising how many of my favorite photos from the last 12 months were captured on my phone or my little pocket camera, but captured they were – from last birthday cake to this one. (Captions with locations and comments on the photos can be found on Flickr.)

Choice Quotes From A Day with Miss M

To her playmate on the way to the swimming pool Thursday afternoon:

"Want to pretend that you are 40? Cause that's really super old!"

And on the way back home because I obviously had not understood the question the first time: 

"No, no. How did "dad's name" and "mom's name" make "child's name" be born. How did they do it?"

Luckily, my "That's a conversation for another time" response sufficed, because I'd really rather not educate someone else's 5 year old on that topic. Maya and her playmate subsequently decided that the playmate should go home and ask her parents, too.

After dinner while discussing why she can't wear her Crocs to school any more (The tread is gone and she slips in the halls) but she doesn't want to get rid of the old ones or remove her Hello Kitty decorations:

"Can't you and Dad just please decide that I can have a little sister. Everything would be so much better."

Lightly Row

Apparently, now that I’ve made yoga my job, I need a new hobby. Last week, Maya and I treked out to the suburbs in rush hour traffic (OMG, people do this daily?) and came back with these.

Violins 257

Maya has been asking to play the violin for well over a year and we’ve been putting her off. I looked into it last fall, but was overwhelmed enough with her starting full-day school, ballet, and gymnastics while I attempted to turn teaching yoga into a living.

Dress Rehearsal 2For ballet and gymnastics, parents simply sign up and then cajole drag take our child to once-a-week lessons where we sit around with other parents and/or a book/laptop for 45 minutes and bask in the glow of an excited gymnast/ballerina afterward.

Preschooler instrumental music lessons on the other hand, at least Suzuki method style, are a high-parent-commitment endeavor. Parents don’t have to play, but they do have to attend lessons, take notes, and guide daily practice. I’ve opted to join in with an instrument because I played as a child and I’m gambling that practice is less of a battle if I’m holding an instrument too, plus (as Mac pointed out), I’ve been looking for an excuse for years to pick up violin again.

I did pick it up yesterday and while my technique is certainly very rusty, I discovered that some of my decades-old Suzuki repertoire is still there as I played Lightly Row from memory. That’s a good thing because we’re spending the equivalent of a significant car repair to refurbish my grandfather’s violin (the one in the photo is a loaner), so I’m pretty much committing to two years of lessons for me no matter what Maya does.

Conversing with the 4-Year-Old

Excerpts from conversations with my 4-year-old after picking her up from school today:

Typical stance.Maya: "Can I use my new pencil to do homework this afternoon?"

Jen: "Sure."

M: "Can you help me because I don't know what homework is?"

J: "Do you want an example of how a knock-knock joke is supposed to work?"

M: "Yes."

J: "Ok, knock, knock."

M: "Who's there?"

J: "Cars."

M: "Cars who?"

J: "Cars I love you."

M: peals of laughter, "Knock, knock."

J: "Who's there?"

M: "Cars."

J: "Cars who?"

M: "Tree!" laughs even harder.

J: Getting ready to close the rain cover on the bike trailer,"Ok, now remember that because of the rain, I won't be able to hear you while we ride home. We'll just have to talk when we get there. [15 min, max] Unless it's important, then just yell."

. . . a little later, about half-way home


J: "What?"

M: something that sounds like it could be "LOOK AT THAT CASTLE!"

J: Since there's no obvious castle, stops on the side of the road and turns around: "What did you say Maya?"


J: "Yes, yes it does." (And important is relative.)

On the agenda this afternoon:

  • Look up pictures of panthers,  because we established on the way to school that they are not pink in the real world.
  • Investigate how much an ant can really carry (same inspiration).

Both very important inquiries.

Raising a vegetarian, or not.

First strawberry, approx 8 mo.
Snap peas fresh from the market,
not quite 2.
Birthday cake
Rainbow birthday cake, 4 yrs.

Evidenced by more than 600 comments so far, I’ve clearly struck a nerve with my Care2 post about allowing my hitherto vegetarian child to purchase school lunch, meaning meat. I’ve only read a sampling of those comments, but, as you can imagine, they range from cheering me on for empowering Maya’s choices to condeming me for failing to provide moral guidance and being a pushover parent.

Help! My Vegetarian Child Wants to Eat MeatHelp!
My Vegetarian Child Wants to Eat Meat

Originally published on Care2

When I became a vegetarian at age 14, I was opting out of a food system I felt was cruel, corrupt, and environmentally harmful. Decades later I’m facing a dilemma that my 4-year-old wants to eat the lunches served in her school cafeteria, which means meat.

After 3 out of 5 of her packed lunches came back from school untouched last week, I was unable to get a straight answer out of my daughter on what she was eating. So, I checked in with her teacher after school. The teacher reported that Maya had been “forgetting” her lunch in her locker at lunchtime. Since the teacher could neither send someone to fetch the forgotten lunch nor allow one of her preschoolers to go hungry, she’d been procuring a cafeteria meal for my daughter. Apparently, Maya had happily consumed barbecue chicken, fish tacos, and possibly a cheese burger that week.

As we were talking, Maya took a moment out of playing with a classmate to declare “I don’t want to be a vegetarian. I want hot lunch.” to which the teacher remarked, “She’s an independent thinker, that one.” And that’s my dilemma.

Do I impose my preferences on my child or let her find her own way?

When told my parents I didn’t want to eat meat anymore, they pretty much exploded. They were not going to have it. They were not going put up with any dietary nonsense or prepare special meals. I was to eat what everyone else was eating. End of story . . . and then they calmed down and set conditions:

  • I would be responsible for cooking all my own meals and ensuring that I ate sufficient protein at every one;
  • I was to prepare written report on vegetarian nutrition and protein before I would be allowed to stop eating meat;
  • I would be expected to use my own money to purchase any special foods not available at the supermarket (This was before tofu and soy milk were commonly found in a mainstream grocery story).

I didn’t back down. In fact, my parents’ opposition probably did more to solidify my adolescent commitment to vegetarianism than deter me from making an inconvenient lifestyle choice. It took almost two decades before my husband and I decided that we should make our respective families’ lives easier by agreeing to eat fish when we visited.

Back to my daughter . . .

My husband and I never really discussed raising a vegetarian; we simply assumed it. Our vegetarianism is not a religious choice. And, for me, it’s less even of a moral choice than a political one. I opted out of a system I couldn’t support, but I never objected to consuming animals for food, not on principle anyway.

However, we never really addressed the reasons for our vegetarianism with our preschooler. Perhaps we went wrong there, but I didn’t want to expose my daughter to the horrors of factory farming and I still don’t. I’d like to shield her, even just a little longer, from the some of cruelty that humans can inflict on people and animals alike. I always expected that we would address those issues as they came up naturally (Say when we read Charlotte’s Web for the first time).

From a practical perspective, I’m not even sure I can force my daughter to bend to my will on this one. I could make lunch a royal battle, forbid Maya from eating cafeteria food, and tell the teacher to let her go hungry if she leaves her lunch in her locker. But what does she learn from that? We could teach her more about where her food comes from with the hope that she’d choose vegetarianism over hot lunch. But 4-year-olds don’t do nuanced moral arguments –  you’re either a good guy or a bad guy. If we convince her that eating meat is bad, how to we teach her that her non-vegetarian classmates are not, by extension, also bad?

Our school faculty assures us that the cafeteria food is actually quite good – locally sourced, even – and I’m not ready to force the factory farming discussion. So for the time being, we’re letting our daughter decide what she eats, at least at school. What would you do?

High Tea at the Mayflower Hotel


Back in July, on a total whim, I purchased a Groupon for tea for 2 at the Mayflower Hotel in DC. The above photos were taken during and immediately following Maya's first fancy afternoon tea.

My original intention for tea was as a birthday treat. But the end of October was so full of birthday and Halloween that fancy tea didn't make the cut. Barely a blink later, we found ourselves in January with the Groupon expiration looming and having read a few reviews of the Mayflower that tea wasn't really child friendly after all. I almost passed the Groupon on via the neighborhood listserv, but another mom convinced me to just get dressed up and go. 

Verdict: No, it's not really child-friendly, at least not for 4-year-olds. The staff was professional, but not warm. I'm guessing that I'm not the only person who purchased a Groupon explicitly to take a little girl to tea because the hostess asked to see it before taking us to our table. Our waiter kept most of his disapproval hidden as he warned me to (I forget his exact wording) to keep a close eye on Maya – implying that she would pour her tea too fast, let it overflow, and burn herself or (worse?) make a mess. Maya was, of course, oblivious to this and I knew she wasn't going to even try to pour the tea herself so we busied ourselves with enjoying our tea.

But I'm sure the staff are getting a lot of little girls in what is normally an adult restaruant now as the Groupon comes due, so we'll cut them some slack. In fact, 3 little girls came in all dressed in their finest during the 40 minutes we were there. The manager, on the other hand, seemed very happy to see when she checked to see if our tea was "just delightful," but she probably doesn't wipe up many spills.

Maya did great, really. She remembered to use her napkin instead of her sleeve (mostly) and to keep her elbows off the table. She tried several of the sandwiches and enjoyed quite a few of the desserts. I doubt you are supposed use your spoon to eat the whipped cream and lemon custard provided for scones, but that seemed a small concession.

If You Give a Mom a Muffin

The poem below was emailed to me this week.  If you are a parent who's read the "If you Give a Mouse a Cookie" book series by Laura Numeroff, this may strike a cord.

If You Give A Mom A Muffin

Muffin - IMG_0246 by Beth Brubaker

If you give a mom a muffin,

She’ll want a cup of coffee to go with it.

She’ll pour herself some.

Her three-year-old will spill the coffee.

She’ll wipe it up.

Wiping the floor, she’ll find dirty socks.

She’ll remember she has to do laundry.

When she puts the laundry in the washer,

She’ll trip over boots and bump into the freezer.

Bumping into the freezer will remind her she has to plan for supper.

She will get out a pound of hamburger.

She’ll look for her cookbook

(“101 Things To Do With a Pound of Hamburger”).**

The cookbook is sitting under a pile of mail.

She will see the phone bill, which is due tomorrow.

She will look for her checkbook.

The check book is in her purse that is being dumped out by her two-year-old.

She’ll smell something funny.

She’ll change the two year old’s diaper.

While she is changing the diaper, the phone will ring.

Her five-year-old will answer and hang up.

She’ll remember she wants to phone a friend for coffee.

Thinking of coffee will remind her that she was going to have a cup.

And chances are…

If she has a cup of coffee,

Her kids will have eaten the muffin that went with it.


**Naturally, we'd be using a veg-friendly alternative around here.

I was unable to find the poem's original source or a website belonging to Kathy Fictorie, the credited author.* See editors note 5/21/2012.

I did find creative moms out there turning the poem into a cute DIY gift. Pamela Donnis designed a 4×6" card (left) for the poem and attached it to a package of muffin mix with a bow.  She has shared the image file on her blog. I found alternative versions using homemade muffin mixes as well.

Maya's current favorite from the series is "If You Give a Pig a Pancake."  We don't own that one and she recently requested it at bed time. I found a version on YouTube being read by another fan. Enjoy.

Is a web video of a child reading a book aloud with copyrighted images an example of online piracy? Probably, but if either piece of proposed federal legislation known as the "Stop Online Piracy Act" and "Protect Intelectual Property Act" passes, a single complaint to my web hosting company could result in Puddle Jumping in DC being shut down over it, no due process, no notice.  Find out more. Contact your members of Congress.

* Editors note 5/21/2012: I was contacted by Beth Brubaker, apparently the actual author of the poem. Read her "If You Give a Mom a Muffin – STOLEN!" post here.  The irony of the topic of this post and the saga of this poem is not lost on me.

Photo credit: Muffin by flickr user Nicola since 1972, used by Creative Commons license.

What is Itsy Bitsy Yoga for Tykes or preschool yoga class?

If you’ve never taken your 2-year-old to an Itsy Bitsy Yoga for Tykes or preschool yoga class, you might have trouble imagining what we do there. If you just don’t think your active toddler will stay on a yoga mat for 45 minutes, you are totally right and it’s totally ok! In Tykes yoga, we MOVE! We march; we hop; we skip; we gallop.

We do yoga poses, but that’s only part of the magic (and when you’re in a room full of preschoolers in warrior pose shouting “sunshine” at the top of their lungs, it is definitely magic). We act out stories like jungle safari or trip to the beach, using very little Sanskrit to describe the poses we are doing and no detailed alignment adjustments. Instead, we engage children in fun games as they explore their bodies and develop strength and coordination in the poses.

We embrace the kids where they are at: some are watchers who might wait for the safety of their own homes to break out what they saw in class; others want to do every pose and make up their own; still others may need to burn off steam running in circles in the room and might only join the group when we do their very favorites. For parents, Tykes yoga is very much an exercise in yogic parenting: releasing our attachment to particular outcomes and being present to this moment we have with our child. Of course, my husband says his favorite part of Tykes yoga class is, hands-down, legs-up-the-wall at the end (with bubbles for the little ones).

See my current class schedule to the right and come check it out for yourself!

For more on Itsy Bitsy Yoga, check out this interview with its creator, yoga teacher and child development specialist Helen Garabedian.

Three is So Much Fun

Near-verbatum conversation from this evening:

Maya – "Let's play sandwich. Let's play sandwich. You're the peanut butter and jelly and I'm the sandwich."

Jen – "Ok. How do we play sandwich."

M – "It's simple. You're the peanut butter and jelly and I'm the sandwich."

After a demonstration.

J – "Where did you learn this game?"

M – "At my yardsale. Ok, now I'm the peanut butter and jelly and you're the sandwich."

Free Itsy Bitsy Yoga classes a Willow Street in Takoma Park on Friday

Babies, toddlers, and preschool-age children derive many of the same benefits from yoga that adults do:
increased strength and flexibility, improved body awareness, and relaxation. In addition, a kids yoga class encourages children to move
creatively in a non-competitive environment while honoring each child's
unique expression of the poses and having fun.

Itsybitsyyoga_jen Willow Street Yoga's Summer 2010 classes
run from July 23 to September 3. Free preview
will be offered on July 16
(led by me) and 18 (led by Rebecca Gitter).

  • 9:00 am – Tots,

    for crawler babies to 24 month-old toddlers
  • 10:00 am – Tykes,
    month-old toddlers to 4 year-old children
  • 11:00 am – Babies,
    3 week-old to pre-crawling babies

class features dozens of child-oriented yoga poses, games, and songs
that parents can enjoy with their children anytime. No yoga experience
required for parent or child. All classes will be held upstairs in studio 2 at the Takoma Park studio, but please check in at the front desk.

Itsy Bitsy Yoga has been a huge part of our parenting experience

That I spend every Friday morning leading newborns through preschoolers and their parents
through games, songs, and yoga poses at Willow Street Yoga Studio in
Takoma Park has been seriously underrepresented on this blog.

I started taking Maya to local Itsy Bitsy Yoga classes before she could
even hold up her head. When I went back to work, Mac took Maya to what sounded like a very fun Tots class while I hunted the metro area for a class that worked with both my work and Maya's nap schedule.  I ended up getting certified to teach instead.

As Maya grew, yoga became one of her favorite activities.  She's one of those non-participatory kids in class.  She hangs back, runs around the room, does some poses and watches others. And then she does them all at home, makes us perform them on her baby dolls (we went through a phase where anything with legs and a face did toes-to-nose multiple times a day), and asks whens we're going back to class.

That both Mac and I took her to classes turned out to be very useful.  As a pre-verbal toddler, there was a language all three of us could speak in the games and movements of Itsy Bitsy Yoga. Maya would light up when one of us did a pose with her outside of class, as if saying "I know this!"

As she became verbal, Tots and then Tykes yoga became even more fun. Yoga poses became a way to change the mood, break her out of tantrum, entertain her during an adult-oriented wait for something, or just have fun.  One night, she got something stuck to her foot and went to wipe her foot on her other leg.  She was whining a bit about whatever it was until she realized that she was in Tree Pose, and then she was totally tickled as she laughed and said, "Mommy, Mommy do tree pose, too."  She would often strike a pose and have me name it. "What's Maya doing?," she'd ask until I answered.

So if you are in the area with your little one, join me on Friday and for the rest of the summer.

Itsy Bitsy Yoga logo Itsy Bitsy Yoga® is a unique blend of yoga postures,
child developmental movement, and parent/child bonding. Itsy Bitsy Yoga was created
by Helen Garabedian, an infant developmental movement educator, yoga
teacher, and mother. Jen studied with Helen in 2008 and 2009.

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